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The Opening Tip: Friday, Jan. 7

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  • Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: [Steve] “Nash signed an extension in 2009 that runs through next season. He shows no interest in asking for a trade. ‘I signed up for this,’ Nash said. ‘I’m committed to trying to build a team here. Obviously, last year was a phenomenal year. Tied 2-2 (in the conference finals), I thought we could win a championship. I genuinely believed we could and would win it. It’s tough to be in this position six months later. I’m still committed to it. I love the guys. I think we’ve got potential but we’ve had so much change and haven’t been able to put it together. If we want to point fingers, we’ve got to point some at ourselves and say, ‘We haven’t put it together.’ I’m still happy. I just want to try to win games for these fans and our team because that’s the most frustrating thing.’”
  • Chris Broussard, ESPN.com: “It’s looking more and more like Carmelo Anthony will remain in Denver until the Feb. 24 trade deadline, and after all this time, the New Jersey Nets remain the Nuggets’ preferred trading partner. The Nets and Nuggets have discussed various trade scenarios and just before Christmas, they nearly worked out a three-team deal involving the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to league sources. The Nets have a standing offer of rookie Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and Troy Murphy on the table, but last month, sources said the Nuggets weren’t interested in Murphy because they would have inherited the remaining $8 million on his expiring contract. So the Nets brought in Cleveland and its 14.5 million trade exception. Denver would have received Favors, Devin Harris and three first-round picks. Cleveland would have received Murphy and one or two first-round picks, and the Nets would have received Anthony and Al Harrington the sources said. Beyond the sticking point of Anthony accepting or refusing to sign the long-term extension with New Jersey, the deal fell apart because both Denver and Cleveland wanted the 2012 first-round pick the Nets got from Golden State in the Marcus Williams trade. That pick is protected through the first seven slots. While Denver never asked for the Nets’ five first-round picks, New Jersey might have wound up sending those five picks to the Nuggets and the Cavs. Losing all those first-rounders makes the Nets squeamish, as does not getting back a point guard if they have to give up Harris.”
  • Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: “After weeks waiting for his turn, Terrence Williams was relegated to playing in his dreams. But he did not complain. The dream was pretty good. ‘My mom said, ‘Are you getting discouraged down there,” Williams said. ‘I said, ‘No. I had a dream that he put me in the game and as soon as he put me in the game, I hit a 3.’ I swear that’s what I told her. And it happened. After the game I told my mom that it happened. I need to have a dream about getting a triple-double.” Williams hit his 3-pointer less than two minutes into his first meaningful playing time since the Dec. 15 trade to the Rockets. With point guard Aaron Brooks out, Courtney Lee moved over to play backup point, opening playing time for Williams, 6-6, as a backup shooting guard. He did not play in the second half against Portland because coach Rick Adelman extended Kevin Martin’s minutes to take advantage of Martin’s hot shooting and stuck with Kyle Lowry longer in the second half. But Adelman said he likely will try the rotation again tonight in Orlando with Brooks’ return questionable.”

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  • Published On 8:24am, Jan 07, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Tuesday, Jan. 4

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    • Zach McCann, Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando Magic guard Gilbert Arenas played the entire fourth quarter Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, as Jameer Nelson logged just 8 minutes, 41 seconds in the second half. Arenas’ increased playing time had nothing to do with his points (11) or assists (2), however. It was all about Arenas’ exceptional play on the defensive end of the floor. ‘I thought he played very, very hard defensively and I wanted to reward that,’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. It’s a sign of the defensive improvement Arenas has shown in Orlando in just two weeks. When Arenas arrived in Orlando, he was a mess on defense. He’ll admit that. He played too far off his man, he went underneath screens and he had lazy habits from his days in Washington. Now he’s more motivated on that end of the floor, realizing that his defensive play will dictate his playing time. ‘I think he’s capable of playing good defense,’ Van Gundy said. ‘I think he had been playing guys too soft and giving them too much. And tonight I think he made a great effort defensively.’”
    • Michael Lee, Washington Post: “[Andray] Blatche’s name has come up in trade rumors, including a recent report that the Cleveland Cavaliers have interest in him. He acknowledged on Monday that hearing such rumors has had an effect on him. ‘That bothers me some,’ Blatche said. ‘But that’s the name of the game. I just gotta keep trucking along with it.’”
    • Jason Lloyd, Akron Beacon Journal: “At some point during the last week, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott and J.J. Hickson had a chat. It was brief, stern and one-sided, but perhaps long overdue. The two had been sniping at each other at various times since the preseason. Scott had been critical of Hickson’s effort and rebounding, and Hickson had seemed to grow tired of the criticisms from his coach. The two met recently to hash it out. Scott declined to give specifics or say if anything else occurred to lead to the talk, but this was something that had been building for a while. ‘We had a conversation the other day,’ Scott said. ‘We’ll just leave it at that.’ Scott has been frustrated with Hickson’s performance dating to the preseason. Hickson has lost his starting job this season and has been criticized by his coach at various times for his lack of effort and inability to box out while rebounding. Hickson continued to insist that he was doing what Scott wanted, even as Scott said he wasn’t. Then when Scott called for more production out of the bench after a road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 12, the team’s eighth consecutive loss, Hickson said ‘Oh so he’s blaming it on the bench? … That’s his opinion.’ Hickson is averaging 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in what was supposed to be his breakout season. Instead, he has gone to the bench, battled confidence issues and clashed with his new head coach. At least the last of those issues seems to have been rectified. ‘It’s no secret our relationship hasn’t been the best,’ Hickson said. ‘But as a young player, it’s up to me to be humbled by the whole situation and listen to him. He played in the league for a long time. Who am I to question his actions?’”

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  • Published On 7:30am, Jan 04, 2011
  • Monday Musings: Spurs show off elite D

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    This Spurs team isn't shy about agressiving helping on defense, having, so far, forced turnovers on about 14.2 percent of opponent possessions, the 10th-highest mark in the league. (US PRESSWIRE)

    I went into the last week of NBA action with the goal of answering one question: What is wrong with San Antonio’s defense?

    The Spurs have spent basically the entire season in the top 10 in points allowed per possession, but they were showing significant cracks heading into a three-game stretch against the Lakers, Mavericks and Thunder — three of the league’s top 10 offensive teams. In the seven games before that trio of toughies, the Spurs had given up more points per possession than the league average — not their team average, but the higher league average — six times. Opponents were shooting better than 40 percent from deep, putting San Antonio on pace to allow one of the highest three-point shooting marks in league history.

    Sure, the Spurs were 26-4 at that point, sporting the best offense in the league. But there were problems, and I wanted to figure out their origin.

    And then the Spurs shut down all three teams. They held all three to a points-per-possession mark better than the Spurs’ season-long average, and they reduced the Lakers and Thunder into a mess of bricks and turnovers that would have made even the Bucks blush. Those three teams shot a combined 92-of-249 (37 percent) from the floor, and the Lakers and Thunder — two of the league’s best at avoiding turnovers — coughed it up 35 times between them against the Spurs.

    The Mavs were playing without Dirk Nowitzki, so San Antonio’s solid win in Dallas wasn’t a surprise. But in shutting down the Lakers and Thunder at home, the Spurs may have signaled to the league that they can still bring top-shelf defense when they are motivated. And if they really can do that, it would be fair to call San Antonio the clear-cut favorite in the West right now. The Spurs suddenly have a huge lead in the race for home-court advantage, and their two top challengers are dealing with serious injuries (Dallas) and semi-ugly infighting (the Lakers, regressing into 2007-era bickering in the wake of a blowout home loss Sunday against the Grizzlies).

    The way the Spurs defended the West’s elite last week was notable. This was not the staid Spurs defense of the last half-decade. This is a team that helps more aggressively than any Spurs team we’ve seen in a long while. At times, they almost look as if they are over-helping — with a big man running up to contain a dribbler who hasn’t really broken free yet, and as a result leaving an opening somewhere else. But right when I find myself yelling about that overeager initial help — and right when the offensive team is ready to attack that opening — another defender is scrambling into position to cover for his teammate. The Spurs, if you’ll pardon a rare cliché, really are a whirling dervish of rotations and spread-out arms and deflections and wings working their tails off to box out big men for rebounds.

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  • Published On 1:48pm, Jan 03, 2011
  • Court Vision: The latest around the league

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    Tracy McGrady (right) had some vintage moments Wednesday in Toronto. (Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

    • Dan Feldman of Piston Powered touches on Rip Hamilton’s “mission” and Tracy McGrady’s throw-back performance in Detroit’s victory at Toronto on Wednesday. Whenever an aging guy like McGrady makes a notable play, announcers tend to say something like, “He looked like the old T-Mac right there!” More often than not, they are exaggerating. But at one point in the second quarter, McGrady used a left-handed hesitation dribble to get into the paint and then — so suddenly I rewound the play several times — glided in a flash to the hoop for a lefty layup. He really did look like the old T-Mac, at least on that play. Also, I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating after this game: McGrady is still a wonderful passer.

    • After the game, T-Mac wondered why Toronto fans booed him and claimed he didn’t treat the city the same way Chris Bosh did. Both Bosh and T-Mac can rest assured that neither stands any chance of passing Vince Carter for the title of Most Hated Raptor among Toronto residents.

    • Hayes Davenport of CelticsHub explains how Boston beat Philadelphia in un-Boston-like fashion.

    • Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer explores how the Sixers’ late-game offense imploded in Philadelphia-like fashion. Liberty Ballers checks out the shot chart of that implosion and notes that Jrue Holiday sometimes gets marginalized in favor of Lou Williams or Andre Iguodala.

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  • Published On 3:24pm, Dec 23, 2010
  • The Opening Tip: Monday, Dec. 20

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    • Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: “Blame LeBron, Magic fans, if it helps. He’s been catching heat (and that wasn’t even a forced pun) since he left the Cavs. Folks everywhere said he was at fault for everything from the Obama tax cuts to Sal Alosi to Miley Cyrus. Those are just coincidences. Not this. He’s a serial home-wrecker, fracturing franchises like Godzilla in an old sci-fi movie. He not only laid waste to the city of Cleveland, but he’s the supernatural force that eventually doomed Orlando, leading to the Magic’s break-up. Blame LeBron. If he stays in Cleveland or goes anywhere else but Miami, F-L-A, the Magic’s pre-trade woes aren’t quite as magnified or exposed. They wouldn’t look as if they were going backward so fast. Instead, he fled to South Beach and the nightmare came true: King James has helped the Heat leave the Magic behind in the East hierarchy. Sure, the Magic’s downfall that triggered the two blockbuster trades also could be traced to a hangover from the Celtics playoff series, a killer stomach virus, defensive atrocities, 67-year-old Vince Carter, Otis Smith’s rolodex. And maybe it was just a coincidence that Smith made those big deals while the Heat are on a 12-game winning streak and the Magic have lost five of their last six.”
    • Michael Lee, Washington Post: “The Wizards weren’t going to get ‘equal value’ [for Gilbert Arenas] — or whatever that may be — at this time. And, unless they were willing to take back Baron Davis — which they weren’t — the Wizards couldn’t find another comparable point guard in the deal. So they had to settle on adding another forward to a team that is now overwhelmed at the position, with the return of Josh Howard. They will have to find a point guard in the upcoming days, with a bone bruise on John Wall’s right knee keeping him sidelined for likely the next week or so. Arenas lifted the Wizards from the lottery to an exciting playoff contender, and left it a lottery team on the rebound. Arenas brought fun, threw a $1 million party with Diddy, wrote a groundbreaking blog that welcomed fans into the world of an elite athlete like never before. He connected with fans like few others, with a jersey toss here or funny joke there. He did good deeds in the community and better deeds on the court. He was pure entertainment; he even dunked off a trampoline at an all-star game. When Arenas was at his best, he was among the best, a dedicated hard worker who pushed himself into stardom, proving to doubters that he was much more than a zero. But as quickly as he reached nearly all that he desired — besides postseason success — Arenas had it taken away. “
    • Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: “The Suns are going to miss Jason Richardson. They are happy Earl Clark might have a better opportunity. They are relieved that they don’t have to figure out how to make Hedo Turkoglu fit in. But after Saturday’s goodbyes, the Suns are looking ahead to how their in-season makeover will come out once Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus join the team after Saturday’s six-player trade with Orlando. While the ex-Suns are going to play Monday, the new Suns trio is taking physicals in Phoenix on the same day and is not expected to travel to San Antonio for Monday’s game. They would debut Thursday at home against Miami. ‘I’m optimistic that it can help us short- and long-term,’ Suns guard Steve Nash said. ‘It sounds like it would’ve been tough to keep J-Rich in the summer anyway so it was a chance to take a move in a new direction. I think all three of those guys are good offensive players so I don’t think that it’s going to hurt us. It gives us more size that we needed. It should be a good opportunity for us.’ Nash said the trade was an indication that management was being critical of its own summer moves. Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby was clear Nash is part of the future and all indications are that Nash is in Phoenix to stay.”

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  • Published On 8:00am, Dec 20, 2010
  • Court Vision: The latest around the league

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    Manu Ginobili nailed a game-winner against the Bucks ... but he might've gotten away with a travel first. (AP)

    • One smart NBA observer says (with video!) that Manu Ginobili did not travel on his hippity-hoppity buzzer-beater against the Bucks on Wednesday. Another smart NBA observer says Ginobili did travel before hitting the game-winner. Who’s right?

    • The Celtics are well-versed in running their offense when teams lay off Rajon Rondo, as New York did for much of Wednesday’s game, but the strategy can cause them trouble now and then, particularly when they face teams with solid interior defenders (i.e. not the Knicks).

    I wanted to address this topic in some detail, but Sebastian Pruiti saved me the work by breaking down the two ways Boston responded to this strategy against the Knicks:

    1) Having Rondo enter the ball to the post, cut to the rim, receive a feed from the post player (usually Kevin Garnett) and then dish it to a second post player cutting into the lane (Semih Erden).

    2) Running a pick-and-roll with Rondo and Garnett.

    Pruiti notes that the latter strategy was much more effective, especially because Rondo was passing up layups. The pick-and-roll often forced a switch, which left Landry Fields defending Garnett — not a good matchup for New York, obviously.

    The initial strategy — Rondo cutting to the hoop — would likely work better were Rondo healthy and the second big man someone other than Erden.

    But this is always something to watch with the Celtics because you know they are going to see this defense when they face Miami and the Lakers. In the short term, however, Boston won’t have Rondo, who is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a sprained ankle.

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  • Published On 5:35pm, Dec 16, 2010
  • Court Vision: The latest around the league

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    Raymond Felton is feeling good about the Knicks' hot streak. (NBAE via Getty Images)

    • I’m enjoying the sharp-edged talk between Boston and New York as we get set for the first “important” Knicks-Celtics game since the early 1990s. Paul Pierce echoes lots of haughty Boston fans in questioning whether there is a rivalry between the two teams (who meet Wednesday), while Raymond Felton is talking a big game from New York.

     

    As for whether it’s a rivalry — of course it is! Matchups between the Red Sox and Yankees are always considered rivalry games regardless of each team’s status, and the same should be true, albeit on a less strident scale, of Knicks-Celtics. These are two original NBA franchises, and their bitter rivalry dates to the league’s founding, the clash between Red Auerbach and Ned Irish and the Bob Cousy dispersal draft.

    • Donald Sterling apparently heckles Chris Kaman, too. Someone please save the Clippers.

    • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times uses the stat-tracking service Synergy to dissect how Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire have had to change their games in separate settings. Really interesting stuff, and it serves as a nice update to this earlier post on the same topic.

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  • Published On 5:13pm, Dec 14, 2010
  • Some ’10 free agents may soon be shopped

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    Chris Duhon's hefty deal -- he's due a total of $14.25 million through 2013-14 -- could be useful for matching purposes in a larger trade for the Magic. (Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

    The 100-plus players who signed free-agent deals between July 1 and Sept. 15 are eligible to be traded starting Wednesday.  The importance of the date can be a little overblown, because most trades don’t happen until closer to the Feb. 24 trade deadline and team executives often spend December mulling how recent signees might fit in deals. A few other caveats:

    • Teams signed free agents presumably because they want those players. A bad first 30 games shouldn’t be enough in most cases to turn a team’s perception of a player on its head. J.J. Redick might be shooting 39 percent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Orlando wants out of his three-year, $20 million deal (with the last season not guaranteed). He’s also a base-year compensation player, which makes him much trickier to move. And although ESPN’s Marc Stein reported over the weekend that Redick might be available, the chances that Orlando would move him are slim.

    • Most free-agent signees aren’t making much, meaning they alone can’t bring back much salary in a trade if their original team is over the cap. The Heat, for instance, have a pile of minimum contract free agents they can trade beginning Wednesday, but dealing Juwan Howard ($854,000) or Eddie House ($1.35 million) won’t net the Heat very much talent.

    • Teams aren’t going to be clamoring to take on pricey deals amid collective bargaining uncertainty. The Brendan Haywood and Travis Outlaw deals for Dallas and New Jersey, respectively, look pretty bad already. In the Nets’ case, they are going to have a heck of a time persuading any team to pay Outlaw $35 million through 2014-15 with a lockout next season appearing very likely. And given Tyson Chandler’s injury history, the Mavs might be reluctant to move Haywood, despite his contract.

    • Teams close to the luxury-tax line – such as the Hawks, Spurs, Bucks and Sixers – aren’t going to add enough salary to push them over the threshold.

    With all of this in mind, here are a few teams who have free agents worth considering in trades.

    (All salary information is courtesy of ShamSports)

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  • Published On 4:00pm, Dec 14, 2010
  • The Opening Tip: Tuesday, Dec. 14

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    • Michael Wallace, Heat Index: “Dwyane Wade has been a lot of things during the Miami Heat’s winning streak — dynamic, dominant, efficient and energetic, to name a few, amid his most impressive stretch of the season. On Monday night, Wade was something altogether different. He was angry. And the New Orleans Hornets would discover they wouldn’t like him too much when he’s angry. ‘We’ve seen Dwyane enough,’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ‘I still remember the game against the [New York] Knicks [two seasons ago] when they struck blood. That’s probably the worst thing you can do against Dwyane. It sparked his interest. He imposed his will.’ Hornets guard Jarrett Jack didn’t draw blood when he grabbed Wade around the shoulders and neck to prevent the high-flying, constantly falling Heat guard from swooping in for a dunk with 9:12 left in the second quarter. Jack was whistled for a routine foul on the play, and not a flagrant one. Wade went nuts and quickly set his sights on two targets. First, he shouted in frustration at referee Rodney Mott for not assessing Jack with a stiffer penalty. For that outburst, Wade was assessed a technical foul. After that, Wade furiously took matters into his own hands and seized control of the game. Instead of celebrating hours after he was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Wade spent much of the night seething as the Heat ran their victory streak to nine in a row after sprinting away from the Hornets 96-84 at AmericanAirlines Arena.”
    • Chris Tomasson, FanHouse: “[Carmelo] Anthony said returning to Denver is still a long-term option. ‘Yes,’ Anthony said of whether there still being a possibility he could sign the extension with the Nuggets. ‘Yes, it is. My options are open. That doesn’t mean I’m not (going to sign it with Denver). That doesn’t mean I am. My options are open.’ Anthony continued to decline to say what it might take for the Nuggets to be able to keep him in Denver. ‘I don’t know,’ Anthony said. ‘That’s for us to talk about when I have those meetings with [Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and vice president Masai Ujiri].’ Speaking to reporters in New York on Sunday, Anthony said he doesn’t expect the Nuggets would trade him to a team for which he wouldn’t want to play. He was asked Monday to elaborate on that. ‘Me and Masai and Josh are all on the same page right now,’ Anthony said. ‘If anything was to happen (with a trade), I don’t think that they would ship me to the Kansas City Royals or anything like that. That’s just my take on it. I don’t know. They might be thinking something different.’”

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  • Published On 9:07am, Dec 14, 2010
  • The Opening Tip: Monday, Dec. 13

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    • Jason Lloyd, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Ever since [Byron] Scott inserted [Daniel] Gibson and [Antawn] Jamison into the starting lineup, the Cavs have been more competitive in losses to the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and now the Thunder. But Saturday against the Rockets and again Sunday against the Thunder, Scott has lamented not being able to find the right combination of reserves to keep the Cavs in games. ‘I have to find a combination of that second unit that’s going to come in and play the right way and do the right things,’ he said. ‘As soon as all five guys are off the floor, we’re getting slaughtered.’ That didn’t sit well with [J.J.] Hickson, when informed that the head coach didn’t like the way the reserves were playing. ‘Oh, so he’s blaming it on the bench?’ Hickson asked. ‘If he feels that way then, that’s the way he feels. That’s his opinion.’ The losses are beginning to wear on Scott, who sat in the locker room for about 30 minutes after the loss — even though league rules require coaches to address reporters 10 minutes after a game ends.”
    • Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports: ” It’s not uncommon to hear Los Angeles Clippers fans heckle Baron Davis. Of late, however, the jeers directed at the team’s struggling point guard are coming from a far more surprising source: The man paying Davis, Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling has expressed his displeasure about Davis’ play by taunting him from his courtside seat at Clippers’ home games, several sources told Yahoo! Sports. Among Sterling’s verbal barbs: — ‘Why are you in the game?’ — ‘Why did you take that shot?’ — ‘You’re out of shape!’ While Sterling has also taunted other Clippers players since the middle of last season, none have received it worse than Davis, the sources said. Davis has missed 14 of the team’s 25 games this season and is averaging 7.4 points while making a team-high $13 million. Including this season, Davis has three years and nearly $42 million left on his contract.”
    • Chris Sheridan, ESPN New York: “Carmelo Anthony has told the Denver Nuggets he will not sign the nearly $65 million contract extension he has been offered unless he is traded to the New York Knicks, a source told ESPN.com on Sunday. The source, using the most definitive language possible, confirmed what has been widely speculated around the NBA over the past two months as Anthony has been at the center of trade talks involving numerous teams. And while other franchises might be able to make better offers, Anthony will not agree to sign anywhere long-term unless he is dealt to New York, according to the source, who has been privy to private discussions between Anthony, his representatives and the Nuggets organization. The source spoke to ESPN.com after Denver’s 129-125 loss to New York on Sunday afternoon as the Knicks won their eighth straight game. Anthony was again coy in discussing his future, but he did move the needle somewhat in making a prediction that the Nuggets will not trade him to a destination that is not on his wish list.”

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  • Published On 8:00am, Dec 13, 2010


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